If you are a project or program manager in the Oil and Gas industry and are currently facing a slowdown, you should be taking this time to get ready in order to do better for the next upswing. It might be hard to see right now with the price of oil hovering around $50, and perhaps even $40. But, if you look at the history of oil prices, it is going to come back up.

If you have been involved in oil & gas capital projects of any size (large or small) or complexity (near insane or ridiculously simple), you know how anarchy-laden the systems and processes in one of these can be. So, right now with the price of oil perhaps stabilizing a bit, and without any major projects in the cards in the near future, it is a good time to regroup and solve some of the people + process + systems problems you’ve always wanted to fix.

Let’s look at these three things for the projects and programs in the context of some real trouble areas.

Systems/Technology

As a basic set of systems that a project and program needs, here are a few:

  • Portfolio selection,
  • Estimating,
  • Planning and Scheduling,
  • Risk analysis,
  • Cost controls,
  • Record management (e.g. issues, safety, correspondence, etc.)
  • Document controls, and
  • Enterprise reporting & analytics.

You might have some other needs as well, like: supply chain integration; Building Information Management (BIM, and integration to estimates and schedules for 4D and 5D modelling); Labor, Equipment, and Materials receipts (LEM tickets), safety management systems, and more.

That’s a good-sized laundry list. Unfortunately, you may not have a budget to go buying any. Here are two things you can do:

  1. Look at the software you do have. If, for example, you already have Primavera P6 as a scheduling and planning tool, and you want to improve your portfolio selection, risk analysis, issues management, and other things, here’s some good news – P6 EPPM can do this. Call up your P6 sales team or partner to get more information. You just may need to configure parts of P6 you haven't touched before and start using it. Down the line, you can look to more advanced tools like Primavera Unifier, Primavera Risk Analysis, and so on, but this will get you started with an integrated platform. The short message – regardless of what you have for solutions - is that you can challenge your existing vendors to be partners (not just order takers) and show you what else their solutions can do for you.
  2. Start kicking tires with vendors. Poke around at some of the software that does some of the things you need. Maybe now is a good time to start by laying out a strategy and then getting vendors to demonstrate their solutions to you.

There is a third thing you might consider. It can be a great time to upgrade your systems. For example, many installations of software like P6 are frozen in time. Good old versions or P6 r6 or r7 are still heavily used. This slowdown might be a good time to migrate to the latest version of P6 EPPM, and start taking advantage of the latest features that will drive more value into your (future) projects.

Processes

Those jobs that you always said you’d do when you have time… Now you have that time. Use it wisely to optimize your business processes. What types of processes should you optimize? All of them (refer to the list of systems at the top of this document. The systems and processes are fairly synonomous).

Look at the inputs to your process from your “suppliers”. These might be information, requests, approvals, permits, drawings, contracts, equipment, materials, hours, expenses, invoices, approvals, and (of course), more! Are you getting the right ones? Are you getting them at the right time? If not, work on getting that fixed. What should your outputs be? Are they all really needed? Do you need more? Can you do it faster, cheaper, or with better quality? What about the right governance and auditability? Who should participate in the process? All good questions, and I’m sure you can find more to challenge your team with, and consequently to improve your processes for the next upswing.

Or course, when you are optimizing look back at your technologies for better ways to use it.

When you’ve tuned your processes, look at ways that you can automate parts or all of them. For example, you can do some light process management inside Primavera P6. This might even be an opportunity to run a pilot project with an integrated solution like Primavera Unifier for process automation of project controls - costs, records, and documents.

People

People are the greatest asset on a project, and also the weakest link in the chain. You can set out the best processes possible with the best systems, but if people don’t have access to good training and you don’t have a way to test their understanding, they will find the shortest path between their assignment and completion. This means that they will short-circuit the processes and avoid the systems.

In these slow times, it’s a good time to add value to your company. One way you can do this is to spend time prepping for good times to get going again. That means that you need to capture the knowledge you have now and that you improve by optimizing your processes in training systems.

How do you publish your training materials? On the “low-end” of the spectrum, you can use typical word processing, screen captures, and presentation systems. With a little extra investment you can upgrade substantially to a training management system, like Oracle’s User Productivity Kit (UPK). With UPK you can record your training in short “movies”, and create tutorials and tests directly from that. It saves you time and effort in creating your training materials, and simplifies publishing through anytime and anywhere web-based access to the materials. This will take your training materials from being a “frozen in time” exercise in producing materials, to being a long-term investment in organizational improvement and success.

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Full disclosure – I’m an Oracle Primavera Solutions Consultant. I educate customers about Primavera products and recommend Oracle and Primavera solutions for them. So, in this article I have focused on Primavera solutions because I know them and believe in them. There are others, and I encourage you to kick the tires on those. Written by